South Dakota won’t lower age to skip out of school

South Dakota teens will still be required to stay in school until they are 18 years old.
South Dakota teens will still be required to stay in school until they are 18 years old.(AP Graphic/WALB)
Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 11:14 AM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. (SDBA) -- Legislators killed a bill this morning (Tuesday) that would have lowered South Dakota’s mandatory school attendance age from 18 to 16.

SB 65 was before the Senate Education Committee.

Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown, the bill’s sponsor, said that the public schools have become the new place to house juvenile offenders.

These students, he said, are disrupting the educational experience of both students and teachers.

“We’re forgetting about the other students (who want to learn),” Sen. Schoenbeck told the committee. “Somebody is getting victimized on the other side,” such as fellow students and teachers who have to deal with troublesome students between the ages of 16.

Several educational groups opposed the bill.

However, the committee also heard from a Watertown Arrow Success Academy student who said having to stay in school until 18 changed her life.

“I was going to give up,” Amanda Schaaf (shaw-if) testified. “Don’t give up on kids like me.”

Much of the committee discussion before the vote centered on possible juvenile justice system reforms and alternative pathways to a high school diploma or other certification.

Dianna Miller, a lobbyist for the Large School Group and a former teacher, noted, “We can’t keep lowering the school age to get rid of kids.”

The committee voted 5 to 1 to send the measure to the 41st legislative day, effectively killing it.